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Publication numberUS20020107458 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 09/956,473
Publication dateAug 8, 2002
Filing dateSep 19, 2001
Priority dateSep 29, 2000
Also published asUS6676615
Publication number09956473, 956473, US 2002/0107458 A1, US 2002/107458 A1, US 20020107458 A1, US 20020107458A1, US 2002107458 A1, US 2002107458A1, US-A1-20020107458, US-A1-2002107458, US2002/0107458A1, US2002/107458A1, US20020107458 A1, US20020107458A1, US2002107458 A1, US2002107458A1
InventorsKenneth Flick, Michael Lee
Original AssigneeFlick Kenneth E., Michael Lee
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Wireless massage device for a vehicle and associated methods
US 20020107458 A1
Abstract
A user-controllable massage device is for a vehicle seat that operates via a wireless communications link. The massage device may include a plurality of vibration transducers to be positioned adjacent the vehicle seat, a wireless receiver, and a power controller connected to the wireless receiver for selectively powering the plurality of vibration transducers based upon signals received from the wireless receiver. The massage device may also include a wireless remote controller to be operated by the user for communicating with the wireless receiver to selectively operate the plurality of vibration transducers. The remote controller may transmit a unique code which can be learned by the power controller.
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Claims(41)
That which is claimed is:
1. A user-controllable massage device for a vehicle seat, the user-controllable massage device comprising:
a plurality of vibration transducers to be positioned adjacent the vehicle seat;
a wireless receiver;
a power controller connected to said wireless receiver for selectively powering said plurality of vibration transducers based upon signals received from said wireless receiver; and
a wireless remote controller to be operated by the user for communicating with said wireless receiver to selectively operate said plurality of vibration transducers.
2. A user-controllable massage device according to claim 1 wherein said wireless remote controller transmits a unique code; and wherein said power controller is switchable to a learning mode for learning the unique code of the wireless remote controller so that the wireless remote control unit is an authorized wireless remote controller.
3. A user-controllable massage device according to claim 1 wherein said wireless receiver and said wireless remote controller operate at radio frequencies.
4. A user-controllable massage device according to claim 1 wherein said wireless remote controller comprises a portable housing and wireless transmitter circuitry contained therein.
5. A user-controllable massage device according to claim 4 wherein said wireless remote controller further comprises a battery carried by said housing for powering said wireless transmitter circuitry.
6. A user-controllable massage device according to claim 4 wherein said wireless remote controller further comprises power terminals to be connected to vehicle electrical power for powering said wireless transmitter circuitry.
7. A user-controllable massage device according to claim 1 wherein said plurality of vibration transducers comprises a first array of spaced-apart vibration transducers to be positioned adjacent a seat back of the vehicle seat.
8. A user-controllable massage device according to claim 7 wherein said plurality of vibration transducers comprises a second array of spaced-apart vibration transducers to be positioned adjacent a seat bottom of the vehicle seat.
9. A user-controllable massage device according to claim 1 wherein each vibration transducer is switchable between on and off states.
10. A user-controllable massage device according to claim 1 wherein each vibration transducer has a controllable vibration magnitude.
11. A user-controllable massage device according to claim 1 wherein each vibration transducer comprises an electric motor driving an eccentric load.
12. A user-controllable massage device according to claim 11 wherein each vibration transducer further comprises a seat mounting substrate connected to said electric motor.
13. A user-controllable massage device according to claim 1 further comprising an adjustable lumbar support device to be positioned adjacent a seat back of the vehicle seat and connected to said power controller to be selectively operable by said wireless remote controller.
14. A user-controllable massage device for a vehicle seat, the user-controllable massage device comprising:
a plurality of vibration transducers to be positioned adjacent at least a seat back the vehicle seat;
a wireless radio frequency (RF) receiver;
a power controller connected to said wireless RF receiver for selectively powering said plurality of vibration transducers based upon signals received from said wireless RF receiver; and
a wireless RF remote controller to be operated by the user for communicating with said wireless RF receiver to selectively operate said plurality of vibration transducers, said wireless RF remote controller transmitting a unique code;
said power controller being switchable to a learning mode for learning the unique code of the wireless RF remote controller so that said wireless RF remote control unit is an authorized wireless RF remote controller.
15. A user-controllable massage device according to claim 14 wherein said wireless RF remote controller comprises a portable housing and wireless RF transmitter circuitry contained therein.
16. A user-controllable massage device according to claim 14 wherein said wireless RF remote controller further comprises a battery carried by said housing for powering said wireless RF transmitter circuitry.
17. A user-controllable massage device according to claim 14 wherein said wireless RF remote controller further comprises power terminals to be connected to vehicle electrical power for powering said wireless RF transmitter circuitry.
18. A user-controllable massage device according to claim 14 wherein said plurality of vibration transducers comprises a first array of spaced-apart vibration transducers to be positioned adjacent a seat back of the vehicle seat.
19. A user-controllable massage device according to claim 18 wherein said plurality of vibration transducers comprises a second array of spaced-apart vibration transducers to be positioned adjacent a seat bottom of the vehicle seat.
20. A user-controllable massage device according to claim 14 wherein each vibration transducer is switchable between on and off states.
21. A user-controllable massage device according to claim 14 wherein each vibration transducer has a controllable vibration magnitude.
22. A user-controllable massage device according to claim 14 wherein each vibration transducer comprises an electric motor driving an eccentric load.
23. A user-controllable massage device according to claim 22 wherein each vibration transducer further comprises a seat mounting substrate connected to said electric motor.
24. A user-controllable massage device according to claim 14 further comprising an adjustable lumbar support device to be positioned adjacent a seat back of the vehicle seat and connected to said power controller to be selectively operable by said wireless remote controller.
25. A user-controllable massage device for a vehicle seat, the user-controllable massage device comprising:
a plurality of vibration transducers to be positioned adjacent at least a seat back the vehicle seat, each vibration transducer comprising a seat mounting substrate and an electric motor carried thereby;
a wireless radio frequency (RF) receiver;
a power controller connected to said wireless RF receiver for selectively powering said plurality of vibration transducers based upon signals received from said wireless RF receiver; and
a wireless RF remote controller to be operated by the user for communicating with said wireless RF receiver to selectively operate said plurality of vibration transducers.
26. A user-controllable massage device according to claim 25 wherein each electric motor drives an eccentric load.
27. A user-controllable massage device according to claim 25 wherein said wireless RF remote controller transmits a unique code; and wherein said power controller is switchable to a learning mode for learning the unique code of the wireless RF remote controller so that the wireless RF remote control unit is an authorized wireless RF remote controller.
28. A user-controllable massage device according to claim 25 wherein said wireless RF remote controller comprises a portable housing and wireless RF transmitter circuitry contained therein.
29. A user-controllable massage device according to claim 28 wherein said wireless RF remote controller further comprises a battery carried by said housing for powering said wireless RF transmitter circuitry.
30. A user-controllable massage device according to claim 28 wherein said wireless RF remote controller further comprises power terminals to be connected to vehicle electrical power for powering said wireless RF transmitter circuitry.
31. A user-controllable massage device according to claim 25 wherein said plurality of vibration transducers comprises a first array of spaced-apart vibration transducers to be positioned adjacent a seat back of the vehicle seat.
32. A user-controllable massage device according to claim 31 wherein said plurality of vibration transducers comprises a second array of spaced-apart vibration transducers to be positioned adjacent a seat bottom of the vehicle seat.
33. A user-controllable massage device according to claim 25 wherein each vibration transducer is switchable between on and off states.
34. A user-controllable massage device according to claim 25 wherein each vibration transducer has a controllable vibration magnitude.
35. A user-controllable massage device according to claim 25 further comprising an adjustable lumbar support device to be positioned adjacent a seat back of the vehicle seat and connected to said power controller to be selectively operable by said wireless remote controller.
36. A method for providing massage action to a user in a vehicle seat, the method comprising:
installing a plurality of vibration transducers adjacent the vehicle seat;
providing a wireless receiver and a power controller connected thereto for selectively powering the plurality of vibration transducers based upon signals received from the wireless receiver; and
using a wireless remote controller for communicating with the wireless receiver to permit the user to selectively operate the plurality of vibration transducers to thereby provide massage action to the user at the vehicle seat.
37. A method according to claim 36 wherein the wireless remote controller transmits a unique code, and further comprising switching the power controller to a learning mode for learning the unique code of the wireless remote controller so that the wireless remote control unit is an authorized wireless remote controller.
38. A method according to claim 36 wherein the wireless receiver and the wireless remote controller operate at radio frequencies.
39. A method according to claim 36 wherein installing comprises installing a first array of spaced-apart vibration transducers adjacent a seat back of the vehicle seat.
40. A method according to claim 39 wherein installing further comprises installing a second array of spaced-apart vibration transducers positioned adjacent a seat bottom of the vehicle seat.
41. A method according to claim 36 further comprising installing a lumbar support device adjacent the vehicle seat and controlling the lumbar support device using the wireless remote controller.
Description
RELATED APPLICATION

[0001] This application is based upon prior filed copending provisional application Serial No. 60/237,022 filed Sep. 29, 2001, the entire subject matter of which is incorporated herein by reference.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0002] The present invention relates to vehicles, and, more particularly, to a user-controllable massage device for a user in a vehicle seat and related methods.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0003] Motor vehicles are widely used to transport people and goods on both short and long trips. Driver comfort, in particular, is especially important as driving distances increase. Fatigue associated with long vehicle trips may occur even with high quality seats. Moreover, some drivers may have health problems, particularly back problems, that can make sitting, as when driving a vehicle, difficult.

[0004] Massage units have been developed to increase driver comfort. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 5,462,515 to Tseng discloses a massage device for a vehicle including a pair of motors in both the seat back and seat bottom portions. A control box that may be held in the user's hand is hardwired to the motors to control their operation. Similarly, U.S. Pat. No. 6,087,942 to Sleichter, III et al. discloses a pad for a car seat including motorized vibrators in both the seat back and seat bottom portions and a remote control also hardwired to the pad.

[0005] Unfortunately, such massage devices including hardwired control units may significantly increase the complexity and cost of installation. A wire control cable must be routed typically from an under-seat power controller to the remote control unit. In addition, a cable extending within the interior of the vehicle may be awkward for driver use, and may also be susceptible to damage.

[0006] To further address driver comfort, an inflatable bladder has been used to provide selectable lumber support. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 5,429,585 to Liang discloses a cushion having a seat back portion that includes an adjustable air pouch for supporting a user's lumbar region, a heating device, and a vibration device. An external control box is hardwired to the cushion for controlling the air pouch, heating device, and vibration device. Accordingly, even this more sophisticated massage unit with adjustable lumbar support suffers shortcomings associated with the hardwired control connection.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0007] In view of the foregoing background, it is therefore an object of the present invention to provide a massage device and associated method to increase driver comfort without the shortcomings of a hardwired control connection.

[0008] This and other objects, features and advantages in accordance with the present invention are provided by a user-controllable massage device for a vehicle seat that operates via a wireless communications link. More particularly, the massage device may include a plurality of vibration transducers to be positioned adjacent the vehicle seat, a wireless receiver, and a power controller connected to the wireless receiver for selectively powering the plurality of vibration transducers based upon signals received from the wireless receiver. The massage device may also include a wireless remote controller to be operated by the user for communicating with the wireless receiver to selectively operate the plurality of vibration transducers. Accordingly, the clutter, potential for damage to a cable, and installation complexity associated with a hardwired cable control arrangement are avoided.

[0009] In some embodiments, the wireless remote controller may transmit a unique code. In addition, the power controller is preferably switchable to a learning mode for learning the unique code of the wireless remote controller so that the wireless remote controller is then an authorized wireless remote controller. Accordingly, interference from another nearby unit is avoided, yet a new remote controller can be readily learned and then used.

[0010] The wireless receiver and the wireless remote controller may operate at radio frequencies (RF), for example. The wireless remote controller may comprise a portable housing, and wireless transmitter circuitry and a battery carried by the housing. Additionally, the wireless remote controller may further comprise power terminals to be connected to the vehicle's electrical power, if so desired, in certain installations.

[0011] The plurality of vibration transducers may include a first array of spaced-apart vibration transducers, which may be positioned adjacent a seat back of the vehicle seat. The first array of vibration transducers may be arranged into a pair of columns and at least three rows, for example. The plurality of vibration transducers may include a second array of spaced-apart vibration transducers that can be positioned adjacent a seat bottom. The second array may comprise a pair of columns and at least one row.

[0012] Each vibration transducer may be switched between on and off states and/or the user may control the magnitude of vibrations. Each vibration transducer may include an electric motor driving an eccentric load. Additionally, each vibration transducer may further comprise a seat mounting substrate connected to the electric motor to facilitate mounting adjacent the vehicle seat. An adjustable lumbar support device may be positioned adjacent a seat back of the vehicle seat and connected to the power controller to be selectively operable by the wireless remote controller.

[0013] Another aspect of the invention relates to a method for installing and operating a user-controllable massage device. More particularly, the method may include installing a plurality of vibration transducers adjacent the vehicle seat, providing a wireless receiver and a power controller connected thereto for selectively powering the plurality of vibration transducers based upon signals received from the wireless receiver, and using a wireless remote controller for communicating with the wireless receiver to selectively operate the plurality of vibration transducers to thereby provide massage action to the user at the vehicle seat.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0014]FIG. 1 is a schematic diagram of a user-controllable massage device for a vehicle seat in accordance with the present invention.

[0015]FIG. 2 is a more detailed schematic diagram of a portion of the massage device as shown in FIG. 2.

[0016]FIG. 3 is a perspective view of a vibration transducer as shown in FIG. 1.

[0017]FIG. 4 is a top plan view of the wireless remote controller of the massage device as shown in FIG. 1.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

[0018] The present invention will now be described more fully hereinafter with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which preferred embodiments of the invention are shown. This invention may, however, be embodied in many different forms and should not be construed as limited to the embodiments set forth herein. Rather, these embodiments are provided so that this disclosure will be thorough and complete, and will fully convey the scope of the invention to those skilled in the art. Like numbers refer to like elements throughout.

[0019] Referring now to FIG. 1, the user-controllable massage device 10 in accordance with the invention is first described. The massage device 10 illustratively includes a plurality of vibration transducers 12 a, 12 b positioned adjacent a vehicle seat 18 within a vehicle 13. The vehicle seat 18 illustratively includes a seat back 18 a and a seat bottom 18 b adjacent the seat back. A first array of transducers 12 a is arranged adjacent the seat back and may, for example, include a pair of columns and at least three rows. A second array of transducers 12 b is positioned adjacent the seat bottom 12 b and may include, for example, a pair of columns and at least one row.

[0020] The device 10 also includes a wireless receiver 14, and a power controller 15 connected to the wireless receiver for selectively powering the plurality of vibration transducers 12 a, 12 b based upon signals received from the wireless receiver. Power for the vibration transducers 12 a, 12 b is delivered from the vehicle electrical system, such as the battery and/or alternator, as schematically illustrated by the block labeled 19.

[0021] The massage device 10 also illustratively includes a wireless remote controller 11 to be operated by the user for communicating with the wireless receiver 14 to selectively operate the vibration transducers 12 a, 12 b. The massage device 10 advantageously reduces the clutter, the potential for damage to the cable, and the installation complexity associated with hardwired or cable systems.

[0022] The user-controllable massage device 10 may optionally include an adjustable lumbar support device 17. The illustrated lumbar support device 17 includes an inflatable bladder 21 and a controllable air pump 22 connected to the bladder. The air pump 22 can supply air to the bladder 21 to extend it outwardly for additional lumbar support, as will be readily appreciated by those skilled in the art. In addition, a pressure relief valve, not shown, and associated with the air pump 22 can be activated to release air pressure from the bladder 21 to reduce lumbar support as will also be appreciated by those skilled in the art. The lumbar support device 17 may also be selectively operable by the wireless remote controller 11.

[0023] Referring now additionally to FIG. 2, additional features of the massage device 10 are now described. The power controller 15 illustratively includes a processor 30 and a memory 31 connected thereto. In addition, the processor 30 is illustratively connected to a lumbar support device interface 32, and a vibration transducer interface 33.

[0024] The wireless remote controller 11 may transmit a unique code and the power controller 15 is preferably switchable to a learning mode for learning the unique code of the wireless remote controller so that the wireless remote controller is an authorized wireless remote controller. In other words, the unique code can be learned into the memory 31, as will be appreciated by those skilled in the art. This learned code is compared against an incoming code to determine if the remote controller 11 is authorized to operate the power controller 15. Interference from another nearby unit is avoided, yet a new remote controller can be readily used.

[0025] As shown in FIG. 3, each vibration transducer 12 a may include an electric motor 23 driving an eccentric load, and a seat mounting substrate 24 carrying the motor. The seat mounting substrate 24 may facilitate positioning in the seat back 18 a (or seat bottom 18 b) as will be appreciated by those skilled in the art. Each vibration transducer 12 a may be switched between on and off states and/or the magnitude of vibrations may be controlled by the user.

[0026] Referring now additionally to FIG. 4, other aspects of the wireless remote controller 11 are described. The wireless receiver 14 and the wireless remote controller 11 may operate at radio or infrared frequencies, for example. The wireless remote controller 11 includes a portable housing 25 which contains wireless transmitter circuitry 27 and a battery 26 for powering the wireless transmitter circuitry. One or more visual indicators 35 may be carried by the housing 25. In addition, one or more user operable switches 36 a, 36 b may also be carried by the housing 25 as shown in the illustrated embodiment of the wireless remote controller 11.

[0027] The wireless remote controller 11 may further include power terminals 28 to be connected to the vehicle's electrical power source 19, if so desired. For example, in some installations, it may be readily possible to connect the power terminals 28 to nearby wiring in the vehicle. Even in these embodiments, the wireless link still facilitates installation in the vehicle 13 without needing a cable connection between the remote controller 11 and the power controller 15.

[0028] Another aspect of the invention relates to a method for installing and operating the user-controllable massage device 10. The method preferably includes installing a plurality of vibration transducers 12 a, 12 b adjacent the vehicle seat 18, providing a wireless receiver 14 and a power controller 15 connected to the wireless receiver for selectively powering the plurality of vibration transducers based upon signals received from the wireless receiver 14, and using a wireless remote controller 11 to communicate with the wireless receiver to permit the user to selectively operate the plurality of vibration transducers.

[0029] The wireless remote controller 11 preferably transmits a unique code, and the method may further include switching the power controller 15 to a learning mode for learning the unique code of the wireless remote controller so that the wireless remote control unit is an authorized wireless remote controller.

[0030] Many modifications and other embodiments of the invention will come to the mind of one skilled in the art having the benefit of the teachings presented in the foregoing descriptions and the associated drawings. Therefore, it is to be understood that the invention is not to be limited to the specific embodiments disclosed, and that other modifications and embodiments are intended to be included within the scope of the appended claims.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
EP1688118A1 *Feb 2, 2005Aug 9, 2006IBFK GmbH International Biotechnological Future KnowledgeMethod for avoiding blood stases
EP1688119A1 *Sep 19, 2005Aug 9, 2006IBFK GmbH International Biotechnological Future KnowledgeSitting or reclining furniture including a vibrating device for improving blood circulation
WO2006081964A1 *Jan 24, 2006Aug 10, 2006Ibfk GmbhSeating or reclining furniture comprising a vibrating device for improving blood circulation
Classifications
U.S. Classification601/70, 601/46
International ClassificationB60N2/66, A61H23/02, B60N2/44, A61H1/00
Cooperative ClassificationB60N2/66, B60N2/448, A61H23/0263, A61H2201/0138, A61H2201/0149
European ClassificationA61H23/02R2, B60N2/66, B60N2/44P
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Mar 6, 2012FPExpired due to failure to pay maintenance fee
Effective date: 20120113
Jan 13, 2012LAPSLapse for failure to pay maintenance fees
Aug 22, 2011REMIMaintenance fee reminder mailed
Sep 20, 2007SULPSurcharge for late payment
Sep 20, 2007FPAYFee payment
Year of fee payment: 4
Apr 27, 2004CCCertificate of correction
Aug 12, 2002ASAssignment
Owner name: OMEGA PATENTS, L.L.C., GEORGIA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:FLICK, KENNETH E.;REEL/FRAME:013138/0919
Effective date: 20020801
Owner name: OMEGA PATENTS, L.L.C. 5326 PRESLEY PLACEDOUGLASVIL
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:FLICK, KENNETH E. /AR;REEL/FRAME:013138/0919
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:FLICK, KENNETH E.;REEL/FRAME:13138/919
Owner name: OMEGA PATENTS, L.L.C.,GEORGIA
Mar 8, 2002ASAssignment
Owner name: FLICK, KENNETH E., GEORGIA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:LEE, MICHAEL;REEL/FRAME:012668/0032
Effective date: 20011024
Owner name: FLICK, KENNETH E. 981 BURNT HICKORY ROADDOUGLASVIL
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:LEE, MICHAEL /AR;REEL/FRAME:012668/0032